Twenty-five years ago, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons stepped on the field for the first time. In honor of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise’s 25th year anniversary, The Times Leader is counting down the Top 25 memorable moments in its history every week until the end of the season. All three teams — Red Barons, Yankees and RailRiders — are represented on the list as put together by the staff of The Times Leader. There’s sure to be some debate here as well, which makes it that much more fun.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise has reached the playoffs 11 times in 25 years. The very first appearance came in the fourth season of its existence in 1992.
And what an appearance it was. The Red Barons won their first-ever playoff series knocking off Pawtucket in the Eastern Division playoffs en route to the Governors’ Cup finals before losing to Columbus.
The highlight of the Pawtucket series came in Game 3, on Sept. 11, 1992 during the first playoff game ever played at PNC Field when perhaps the greatest defensive gem in team history was made.
Pawtucket slugger Phil Plantier was up with the bases loaded in the seventh inning and scorched a flyball to the outfield. Right fielder Cary Williams sprinted to the wall in right-center and caught the ball a millisecond before the ball hit the wall to shock the 10,109 fans in attendance and rob Plantier of extra bases and perhaps three RBI. When he crashed into the wall while snaring the fly, he preserved the Red Barons’ 3-2 victory.
Williams, who also hit .300 during three playoff games after batting .223 during the regular season, broke his wrist on the play and didn’t play in any of the team’s remaining six playoff games.
“The greatest memory I have is from the ‘92 playoffs,” former Red Barons hitting coach Al LeBoeuf said in an interview with The Times Leader in 2001. “Cary Williams went back, and as (Plantier) hit the wall, the ball went in his glove and he broke his wrist. The ball stayed in his glove and we won the game. To me, that’s the greatest catch I ever saw.”
The 1992 squad, managed by Lee Elia, went 84-58. The 84 wins stood as the most wins in one season until 2000. The most famous member of the 1992 Red Barons is Greg Legg, who is the only member of the SWB franchise to have his number retired. He played in 90 games for the Red Barons that season batting .228 with 29 RBI.
After 1992, SWB didn’t reach the playoffs again until the 1999 when it started a run of four straight playoff appearances. Elia only managed in ‘92 and that was his last stint as a professional manager. He is currently a special assistant with the Atlanta Braves.